major firms-profitability

SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- Major South Korean listed firms saw their sales rise last year, but their overall profitability sank due to increased competition and low product prices, data showed Wednesday.

According to the data compiled by local financial information provider FnGuide Inc., a total of 38 listed firms posted sales of more than 10 trillion won last year (US$9.03 billion), five more than the previous year.

Hanjin Shipping Co., Samsung Engineering Co., Daelim Industrial Co. and two other firms joined the 10-trillion sales club last year.

However, the number of listed firms whose operating income exceeded 1 trillion won fell to 18 last year from 21 the previous year, according to the data.

IT and auto companies such as Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. saw their operating income surge last year, but mobile operators, petrochemicals makers and shipbuilders suffered a decline in their profits.

The number of listed firms whose operating income exceeds 1 trillion won has been on a steady rise reaching eight firms between 2005 and 2007, and 14 in 2008. The comparable figure was 20 in 2010, according to the data.

"Their sizes increased, but the figures indicate that they sought after quick returns amid increased competition," said Yang Kyong-shik, an analyst at Hana Daetoo Securities.

Meanwhile, the companies that racked up operating income of more than 1 trillion won last year also enjoyed a sharp rise in their share prices.

The data showed that the companies rose 17.39 percent last year on the local stock market, higher than the 9.4-percent gain in the country's key stock index, the KOSPI.

KOGAS posted the largest gain of 80 percent last year, followed by CJ Corp. with a 53.9 percent rise, SK Corp. with a 48 percent hike and Samsung Electronics with a 44 percent climb, according to the data.

But Kia Motors suffered a drop of 15.3 percent in its share price last year. POSCO and Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. also saw their share prices slide 8.2 percent and 5.8 percent respectively last year, the data showed.

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